From the Shepherd’s Nook: John Frye

Jesus the Poster Boy

From the get-go, I (John Frye) am an amateur poet. In the last post we read Eugene Peterson’s affirmation of poetry: “Poetry is language used with intensity. … Poets tell us what our eyes, blurred with too much gawking, and our ears, dulled with too much chatter, miss around and within us. Poets use words to drag us into reality itself…” (from Psalms: Prayers of the Heart). Those with their ears to the ground know that rumblings about views of the atonement have lately peppered evangelical discussions. While Abelard’s Moral-Influence theory (via Schleiermacher) is resurging, I believe and try to express poetically why this increasingly popular atonement theory fails.

Jesus the Poster Boy


Jesus has become the poster boy for love.

He’s been reduced to a fine example to follow.

Jesus as a loving example does me no good.

Jesus as a poster boy does no one any good.


We can have all the good examples in the world,

Including the Son of God,

And it is merely “waste and void.”

The assumption is flawed at the core.


I don’t have it in me to follow the Example.

No one does.

Poster boys just take up space.

We need an Invader, not an example.


I need a virus of rightness to infect me and disease me.

A lot of people are dying admiring the poster boy Jesus.

I want the Jesus that comes in, takes up space in me.

I want him dragging his bloodied cross, too.


I am not ashamed of those crisscrossed Roman planks

Suspiciously removed from poster boy Jesus.

For God’s sake, I don’t need an Example.

I need a Deliverer who liberates me from sin-damaged me.

I am not saying there is no value at all in viewing Jesus as the preeminent Example of love. Imitation of Christ is a strong New Testament category of discipleship. Yet, before imitation there must be transformation. We need radical heart surgery for the blood of discipleship to flow through our veins. Using Jesus’ analogy of trees, just because I admire a good tree does not mean I will produce good fruit. I am not tooting the horn of the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory. I like Scot McKnight’s wise contribution to this discussion in his book A Community Called Atonement. The New Testament is not monotone regarding the atonement. The New Testament is symphonic. I think that reductionist thinking about the atonement has produced the reduced soterian gospel from which the Church is struggling to escape. Multiple metaphors of the atonement will help us rediscover, live and proclaim a very robust kingdom of God gospel.

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  • Anthony

    I know you’ve written on this, Scot, but I just want to clarify. As for penal substitution atonement, you do agree that it is one of many metaphors that do describe the atonement, but you think the punishment that Christ absorbed was the “death on death” that was due us, rather than the wrath of God. Is this what you think?